Monday, February 24, 2014

How Digital Radio Works

By Emily Younker

Though word of digital radio has been spreading the last few years, it is still somewhat unknown to a large portion of the population. Also known as HD Radio, there are some misconceptions about what it actually is. With the increasing popularity of high definitiontelevisions, many may think that these radios are similar in technology or function; this is not true. HD is only a brand name, not an acronym. Though the company did not intend for it to mean anything, it is common practice to refer to it as high def or hybrid digital.
While there are different types of digital radios available around the world, they are not the same. HD Radio is prevalent in the United States while DAB is in used in other countries, particularly Europe. If you have a high def receiver, you cannot use it to pick up the DAB signals and vice versa. The FCC determines which digital radio options are permitted, and so far they have only approved one. It isn’t known at this time whether the FCC will approve any other options.
HDHow digital radio actually works is fairly simple. The radio station creates a digital signal at the same time they create the analog signal. The digital signal is compressed and then broadcast along with the analog signal. These are transmitted at the same time from an antenna. The broadcast signals are then picked up by the various analog and HD tuners, whether they are in your car or in your house. The range of the digital signal isn’t as large as the analog signal. The nice thing about high def receivers is that they can filter out the signals with interference of the waves reflecting off of buildings. This gives you CD quality for the FM stations and FM quality for the AM stations. Although many radio stations are moving over to digital radio, they will continue their analog broadcasts, so you don’t have to worry about your older radios no longer functioning if they don’t have the right high def radio receiver installed.
The digital signal is not only different from the analog in the quality, but also in the information it contains. The digital signal for digital radio contains metadata information for the artist, album and track. This information can be stored and transferred to an iPod, normally by just pushing a button. The next time you hook up your iPod to a computer, it will bring up the list of songs in the iTunes store so you don’t have to keep track of which songs you like.

Even if you don’t want to purchase a new digital radio, there are HD tuners available to add to both your car stereo and home audio system. They work just as well as the integrated version and may be a valid option if you are attached to the current radio you have. To install a tuner in your car radio, first make sure the head unit is capable. There is normally a small icon on the faceplate that will tell you if it will work or not. You can always check with an audio store to make sure.

By Emily Younker

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