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HD Radio sounds like junk
Old 30th July 2011
  #1
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scud133's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
HD Radio sounds like junk

Here's my PSA for the day: HD radio sounds awful. Regular FM sounds more pleasing.

HD has a more extended top end, but the problem is that it's distorted and crunchy like an old low bitrate MP3.

When you switch back and forth between the same station on FM->HD, you can tell it gets more "open" and "clear" on the HD version, but the god awful top end is not worth it. It's painful to listen to, like a wall of white noise floating on top of the track.

In comparison, FM's lesser frequency range is actually an advantage because it sounds warmer, more pleasing, more soothing, whatever. It doesn't have that washy, grating top end.

/rant
Old 30th July 2011
  #2
Gear Guru
[wild speculation]Possibly this is a fault of the radio station processing? Maybe they are sending exactly the same signal to both FM and HD transmitters. The signal is probably hyped to hell and back to compensate for the inevitable losses from the analog FM medium. Maybe they need to create two very different feeds. Sort of like the early days of CDs, where the record companies used the same masters that were created for vinyl. Or maybe the fault is at your end - what converters are you using? I expect the station is cramming all the detail into the top 6dB, so if your converters are less than stellar the cheap analog section is probably crapping out.[/wild speculation]

Who knows. I expect it will turn out to be the operator, not a fault with the medium. Maybe it sounds like mp3s because they are playing mp3s ...
Old 30th July 2011
  #3
Lives for gear
 

95% of people cant hear any freq higher than fm delivers
the other 5% are erasing the highs off their eardrums by playign mp3 too loud in their earbuds all day long
Old 30th July 2011
  #4
Gear Nut
 
Haskell Brooks's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scud133 View Post
Here's my PSA for the day: HD radio sounds awful. Regular FM sounds more pleasing.

HD has a more extended top end, but the problem is that it's distorted and crunchy like an old low bitrate MP3.

When you switch back and forth between the same station on FM->HD, you can tell it gets more "open" and "clear" on the HD version, but the god awful top end is not worth it. It's painful to listen to, like a wall of white noise floating on top of the track.

In comparison, FM's lesser frequency range is actually an advantage because it sounds warmer, more pleasing, more soothing, whatever. It doesn't have that washy, grating top end.

/rant
I find that it gets crunchier on the "bonus channels," I can live with the difference on the primary channels, especially given the amazing ability my Sony tuner has to pull in weak (i.e. college) stations to which I would otherwise not be able to listen. I agree with your assessment, fortunately the weaker stations I like aren't hd.

There is a hack on the net to be able to switch off hd in the unit I own, the xdr-f1hd (crazy good unit for $100), but I really don't need to bother.
Old 31st July 2011
  #5
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldeanalogueguy View Post
95% of people cant hear any freq higher than fm delivers
the other 5% are erasing the highs off their eardrums by playign mp3 too loud in their earbuds all day long
so where does that leave people like us??? we don't exist?!? GAAAHHH!!
Old 31st July 2011
  #6
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You have good ears, since HD Radio uses proprietary lossy compression. So, it will have less resolution than terrestrial radio. I also notice MP3-like lossy symptoms like the high end is crunchy; cymbals sound terrible, reverb has artifacts, etc..

-The "HD" in HD Radio" was originally called "Hybrid Digital" by the firm that owns the rights, iBiquity.

-The FCC gave iBiquity exclusive rights to this digital broadcast domain. Stations have to pay large amounts (6-figures?) for the unique equipment to air it, as well as yearly fees.

-Investors in iBiquity were also part of the FCC commission that gave it exclusive rights.

GC
Old 31st July 2011
  #7
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scud133 View Post
Here's my PSA for the day: HD radio sounds awful. Regular FM sounds more pleasing.

HD has a more extended top end, but the problem is that it's distorted and crunchy like an old low bitrate MP3.
haven't heard it yet, but that sounds like the sound of greed

maybe they are trying to squeeze too many channels in, it sure would not be the first time
Old 31st July 2011
  #8
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scud133 View Post
so where does that leave people like us???
For as long as I can remember, I am in permanent Boycott mode

they don't get me if it sounds bad
Old 31st July 2011
  #9
Gear maniac
 
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Thread Starter
It's a shame because I've come across several alternate-HD stations that I really like, but they just sound terrible and it drives me crazy listening to them.

I like the music but I don't like the sizzly top end that sounds like a can of bees in the car... so I usually just don't listen. bummer...
Old 31st July 2011
  #10
Gear maniac
 
jaddie's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scud133 View Post
Here's my PSA for the day: HD radio sounds awful. Regular FM sounds more pleasing.

HD has a more extended top end, but the problem is that it's distorted and crunchy like an old low bitrate MP3.

When you switch back and forth between the same station on FM->HD, you can tell it gets more "open" and "clear" on the HD version, but the god awful top end is not worth it. It's painful to listen to, like a wall of white noise floating on top of the track.

In comparison, FM's lesser frequency range is actually an advantage because it sounds warmer, more pleasing, more soothing, whatever. It doesn't have that washy, grating top end.

/rant
HD Radio should sound worse! It's even marketed as "near-CD quality". Near? We've be passed CD quality for quite some time. It's heavily bit-rate reduced with a lossy compressor.

FM is theoretically flat to 15KHz minimum, 17KHz maximum. Either way, it's actually quite good. Good tuners had an unweighted S/N of 70+ dB in stereo, the best ever nudging 82dB. No, it's not a CD, but if you apply weighting to the noise measurement, it's darn good. In fact, because of the limited dynamic range of the listening environment, and more than a bit of self-aggrandizing fanaticism, stations typically over process their audio for both FM and HD.

HD Radio is a bill of goods sold to broadcasters, then to consumers by a hand-full of zealots. It's not better than well received FM, it's compression system is audible, the more HD channels a station uses, the worse they all sound, and there are so few HD radios in the wild that it seems ridiculous for a station to spend a quarter of a mil to add HD. They can't make a dime more money off of it either.

Guess what you get out of your radio when the HD radio stream is corrupted by signal reflections to the point it can't be received? Oh, it falls back to good ol' FM.

But wait, there's more! Did you know that the addition of a HD signal to an FM station degrades the FM? Yup. Information theory at work. Add more information in a band-limited channel, and the recovered analog signal gets noisy.

HD Radio (we should the the HD removed, it's simply not true) should never have been done on the same channel as the analog station. And, for it to really succeed it should have offered buyers something they would preceive as an unmistakable improvement (it doesn't). More crappy channels isn't the answer. Outside the FM band it could have been a cellular type system, it could have provided broadcast 5.1 audio, it could have had receiver-based processing, all sorts of great things. Thank the NAB and the FCC for locking it into the existing bands.

HD Radio is hobbled, expensive, and pointless. Radio, in general, is nearly into a tail spin.

Whew. I feel better now. Thanks.
Old 31st July 2011
  #11
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Thread Starter
well I didn't know all that ^ ^ ^ ^ but I guess that explains why I don't like listening to it
Old 1st August 2011
  #12
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cdog's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post
Radio, in general, is nearly into a tail spin.
The only thing keeping it in the ballgame at all is cars. All cars come standard with AM/FM radio and now a lot of them have HD Radio too.

As long as cars are around, people will listen to the radio...

The long of the short of this whole tale is: Hifi is dead. The MP3 killed it and the Loudness Wars raped its corpse...
Old 1st August 2011
  #13
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Hmm. I have a car, drive quite a lot. I don't listen to radio, I have my iPod (w/ high rate aac or lossless files) my smart phone with podcasts, audio books, and Pandora. My first career was in radio for nearly 35 years, but my only radio use today is the AM all news station. No need for HD Radio.
Old 2nd August 2011
  #14
Gear Head
 
B3Nut's Avatar
I've only heard an HD radio tuner once...the artifacts in the treble were impossible to ignore. It sounded like a lot of the stations on XM/Sirius...nasty. It's a classic case of the butt-nekkid emperor parading around like he's the bees knees.

Todd in Cheesecurdistan
Old 30th May 2016
  #15
Here for the gear
 

AM HD Radio

With AM on HD it's supposed to sound as good as regular FM, But then you have two other options if you want to listen to an am station and have it sound good.

1. You have Cquam Or another type of am stereo and there is a youtube video comparing am hd and am stereo and even though the hd sounds better the am stereo sounds more natural and warm.

2. You Have FM Translator Stations. With these you have the main am station transmitting a signal say 1,000 watts and then you have the fm translator signal feeding the am programming from some sort of STL (Studio Transmitter Link).
And Now with 1,000 watts am most (not all) but most stations either lower their TX power at night to under their daytime power and/or go directional or just completely shut down the transmitter to avoid interference with other am stations on that frequency.


Here is that youtube video i mentioned earlier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA5vz0i8Loo
Old 30th May 2016
  #16
Lives for gear
Often, when I hear "HD" radio (quotes highly emphasized), the low bitrate and/or poor compression techniques stand out like a sore thumb. That's what you're likely hearing. Sometimes I hear noise reduction techniques as well, which remind me of the POS maddening sound of modern day wireless phones.

As a comparison, even a 192 bitrate mp3 using the Lame encoder with default settings sounds way better than the above.

I highly doubt what you're hearing is due to the frequency response of the mediums. The bulk of the artifacts I hear are well below the range of FM, 15K, for example.
Old 31st May 2016
  #17
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I don't know anything about anything, but if HD is letting you hear the horrendous station processing more clearly, that would be a very bad thing.

The local hillbilly radio company put the talk radio stars (Rush and the rest) on FM with tons of typical FM processing, and it sounds like you're flossing your head from ear to ear with barbed wire.
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