News

HD Radio delivers extra stations, song details

Eric Benderoff
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

With all our options for listening to music today - satellite radio, Internet broadcasts and those ubiquitous iPods - you may have missed the makeover to plain old radio.

Here's why: You need new gadgetry to listen to what's called HD Radio.

Did you know that in the Chicago area there are 23 additional FM radio stations you could tune in to if you had HD Radio? These stations cover a gamut of genres: jazz, indie rock, disco, deep cuts from classic albums, classic oldies and old-school hip-hop.

The best part? After many hours of listening, I don't seem to get annoyed by the commercials. Granted, I space out when I'm working, so a product pitch may have been missed. But I never reach for the dial to change a station due to a commercial break.

That sounds a lot like why someone would spend $13 a month for satellite radio, yet HD Radio programming is free once you buy a new radio. The radios are starting to appear in new cars, usually as an option, and can be installed in older cars or bought for home use.

HD Radio combines analog and digital signals to provide a higher-quality broadcast and "multicast" programming, which means a station such as WXRT-93.1 or WNUA-95.5 can broadcast two channels over the same frequency, each with distinctive programming. Their multicast sister stations are WXRT-93.1-2 (or HD2), which plays new rock, and WNUA-95.5-2, which plays traditional jazz and not the "smooth jazz" of the standard station. (A list of HD Radio broadcasts can be found at Ibiquity.com.)

In a confusing marketing ploy, HD does not stand for high definition or, as some believe, hybrid digital. The patent holder of the technology, iBiquity Digital, calls it "branding language," and the initials don't stand for anything.

That gimmick aside, I've been thoroughly enjoying HD Radio at home through two devices: a typical clock radio and a more robust player that includes an iPod dock.

The iPod dock in the Polk Audio I-Sonic Entertainment System 2 offers a new feature unique to HD Radio, called iTunes tagging. Not all HD Radios offer this feature.

Here's how it works: If you hear a memorable song while listening to a station broadcasting an HD signal, hit the "tag" button on the $500 I-Sonic (or its remote control) and the song information is saved. This includes artist name and song title, which is information provided by broadcasters when a tune airs over HD Radio.

When your iPod is in the dock, that information is sent to the iPod so the next time you sync it with your computer, you will see a playlist of "tagged" songs. You can't play those songs from your iPod, but you are provided a link to buy them from Apple Inc.'s iTunes music store.

While I listened to WXRT's HD2 channel, I tagged several songs from artists I'm familiar with, such as Mark Knopfler and the Swell Season, as well as artists I was unfamiliar with, including Okkervil River and Robbers on High Street. This feature is great for people who like to discover new music. It also proves radio still has relevance as a medium for selling music because I would not have otherwise considered buying songs from those musicians.

The one drawback to iTunes tagging: It only works with the new iPod Nano (the "fatty") and the iPod Classic. Tagging won't work on the Touch or the iPhone. Most iPods, however, can be played in the I-Sonic's iPod dock.

The I-Sonic is a nice option for a table-top radio and would work well in a home office, kitchen or family room. It has four built-in speakers, so the music really fills a room. The sound is on par with the George from Chestnut Hill Sound, another $500 iPod dock and radio (but not HD Radio). The sound is not as fine as the $600 Zeppelin from Bowers & Wilkins, perhaps the finest and most stylish table-top iPod dock I've heard.

The I-Sonic includes an S-video port too, so you can play a video from the iPod dock and have it displayed on TV.

If you're in the market for a new clock radio, the $90 iLuv i168 is a worthy choice for two reasons: It plays HD Radio stations and it includes a headphone jack so you can listen to music, or a West Coast baseball game, without disturbing the spouse.

It comes with a bright screen to display the time or the radio station and all the extra information an HD Radio feed can display, including the weather and news. One useful example: In the winter, during a snow storm, stations can send school closing information scrolling across the radio screen.

The iLuv sounds a bit better than your average clock radio, so don't buy it for superior performance. But if you need a new clock radio, this one comes with 23 extra stations. That's worth a listen.

(Eric Benderoff writes about technology for the Chicago Tribune.)



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.